ANC supporters did all they could to ensure president’s Women’s Day event in Vryburg would not turn out to be a damp squib.
Fears that President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Women’s Day event in Vryburg would flop hung around the North West province in the days leading to the celebration on Friday.
Among those who showed signs of relief when the huge marquee erected at the showgrounds began to fill up just before Ramaphosa went on stage was employment and labour minister Thulas Nxesi.
“At least we have managed to get our people,” Nxesi said to those standing nearby after checking the audience at the back of the marquee, where many others were still streaming in.
Adding to the uncertainty was the fact that the hosting North West provincial government is under administration by the central government and many of the municipalities in the province are under administration or cash-strapped.
The provincial ANC has been disbanded and replaced by different groups of interim leaders since September last year.
Although a teleprompter had been preferred to help Ramaphosa deliver his speech, he had to do without it.
National government insiders blamed the ill preparedness on their North West counterparts.
City Press heard that ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini spent a couple of days in Vryburg working on the ground to garner support.
Ramaphosa acknowledged Dlamini in his speech.
Local ANC politics cast a shadow of doubt over the event after party councillors in Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati District Municipality planned to support the removal of ANC mayor Boitumelo Mahlangu; her backers vowed to disrupt Ramaphosa’s event and embarrass him.
Mahlangu is an ally of former North West premier Supra Mahumapelo, who fell out of favour with Ramaphosa’s administration when it took over from former president Jacob Zuma — also a close ally of Mahumapelo.
The municipality was among those flagged for putting money meant for service delivery into the now defunct VBS Mutual Bank in contravention of financial regulations.
A Mahikeng High Court decision on Wednesday in favour of Mahlangu restored some calm — although the tension in the district municipality deepened, with some councillors rushing to the bank to block some transactions that were approved immediately on Mahlangu’s return.
The North West provincial government’s preparatory committee for the event also faced the challenge of organising transport for people in the province to attend the event, City Press was told.
A last-minute sponsorship of R2 million to cover the transport costs was rejected by the committee, which was already worried that people who did not run bus or taxi services had been given contracts to provide transport.
Coordinator of the North West ANC task team Hlomani Chauke said that while the event was wholly organised at the local level of government, “the party also ignited its mobilisation machinery on the ground to push back any attempts of sabotage”.
Chauke said the machinery, which played a crucial role during the May 8 elections, could be unleashed at any time.
For example, he said, a group of 10 seasoned organisers spent a week on the ground in Vryburg speaking to locals to ensure that Ramaphosa’s event was supported.
“For the government to succeed you need a strong ANC behind it which also holds those in government accountable for the delivery of services,” he said.
On Monday there had been threats of public disruption in the provincial capital in Mahikeng where a bus was burnt, but Chauke said the intervention of the ANC in a marathon meeting that lasted for almost 12 hours brought some calm.
He said the support from the ANC Women’s League as a result of Dlamini’s hard work was also a good sign.
“The league was very much involved in the mobilisation of women. Therefore, as the party, again, we have taken interest because we have to make sure that we support our government.”
The ANC national working committee was expected to hold a meeting in Rustenburg, after which they would meet all councillors of the party in the province to try to foster stability in the government.
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